Publisher: Faber & Faber
Publication Date: 25th July 2019
When I saw this book being talked about on Twitter, I was instantly drawn to the title and the cover design, and of course, being written by Laura Lippman was a huge plus too! So I did me some research and thought that the premise sounded great, I was hooked!
We are transported to 1960’s Baltimore, where disillusioned housewife Madeleine Schwartz has recently taken the decision to leave her marriage and her comfortable life and make a life for herself on her own. She’s done her stint as a very capable housewife, she’s brought up a teenage son and now she has urges to move on to pastures new and become Maddy again, not just Milton’s wife or Jake’s mother.
When she inadvertently becomes embroiled in the search for a missing schoolgirl and becomes the person who discovers the poor girl’s body she develops a taste for uncovering mysteries, reporting on these kinds of stories in the newspaper and a general hunger to become a reporter in her own right. When she starts corresponding with the young girls alleged killer she takes their letters to the local newspaper to tell her story. However, when someone else essentially re-writes her narrative and she doesn’t get the elusive and much longed for byline, Maddy becomes ever more determined to make her mark. However, off the back of her story she gains a very basic entry level job answering the ‘helpline’ letters at the newspaper.
When one of these letters complains about the lights being out in a local fountain, which in turn leads to the grim discovery of the body of a young missing black girl called Cleo, Maddy is inspired to take up the case and uncover just what happened to Cleo and why her disappearance was more or less brushed under the carpet by the police and the press alike.
Maddy battles her way through prejudice on so many levels. Most notably, how she is treated by her male counterparts in the newspaper office, her burgeoning relationship with a black police officer which she has to keep firmly under wraps, and of course, the racial prejudice surrounding how the disappearance of Cleo was handled. She speaks to various witnesses who have connections to the case, however tenuous, and builds up a back story of Cleo’s life and relationships. She is given a picture of a young woman who has maybe made mistakes, but is trying to make the best of her life for her two young children. As readers we are taken along with Maddy for the ride, gleaning information with her but also being privvy to the private thoughts of the various people she speaks to.
I found this aspect of the book very clever and I really enjoyed seeing an incident or meeting through the eyes of the peripheral characters after they happened. For instance we hear from a waitress who serves Maddy and her male newspaper colleague at a diner, so not only do we see the interaction between Maddy and the man, and the focus of their conversation but we then go on to hear from the waitresses point of view, what she overheard and what she perceived the meeting to be about as a casual observer.
This is a theme that continues throughout the book and I really did enjoy these chapters which punctuated Maddy’s main narrative. We also get interspersed chapters of Cleo’s voice, observing Maddy in her quest to uncover the truth and find Cleo’s killer. This gives a nice rich depth to the story and allows the reader to make a connection with Cleo to ensure she really isn’t just a ‘lady in the lake’.
Maddy is such an interesting character, Laura Lippman has a real talent for writing strong, independent, kick-ass determined female protagonists. Maddy is no exception. She has the guts to leave her comfortable marriage and steady family life to pursue a life where she is the main focus having spent an inordinate amount of her time pandering to other people’s needs. She is driven and has a hunger for success which propels her along in her quest to be somebody of importance outside of the normal run of the mill domesticity. To behave like Maddy does in a male dominated world and a social landscape where prejudice in its many disturbing forms is rife, takes absolute courage of conviction.
The many layers of this story make it an ideal book club choice in my opinion. I think there are so many areas that could come up for discussion, all the various prejudices, racial, religious, sexist, the strong female characters coming from wildly different backgrounds but both very determined to make a life for themselves.
Lady In The Lake is not your run of the mill thriller, of course there’s the ‘whodunnit?’ element but there is so much to explore, so many rich and varied characters who develop and come to life before your eyes.
I thoroughly enjoyed this one.
Thank you as always to the publisher for my review copy and having me along on the blog tour.
See you all soon.
Amanda – Bookish Chat xx